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Full Throttle

Designer athelete


Imposing and slick, the XUV500 is likely to impress the discerning car consumer. This all-new SUV from the house of Mahindra & Mahindra has been in the making for a while now, and was seen on the road in a blackclothed form. It was known as the W201 for the longest while and promised to be a delightful experience.

Form follows function they say, but here, in our first drive, it was great to experience the XUV500 function in a form which should impress even those who prefer sedans. The big, bold, high-tech face of the new Mahindra is seen uninhibitedly here. The grille is different while the front-end treatment with projector headlamps, LED day-time running lights, large front bumper with streaked air dam and recessed fog lamps give it a menacing look. 'Objects in the mirror are closer than you think' would get a new meaning for others in class.

In profile, the car is all muscle and snazzy - like a strapping athlete in a designer suit! The large pronounced wheel arches with their machined-look plus the character crease at the waist level along with a similar, smaller line at the door-sill level impart a good stance when viewed with the sharply raked windscreen and the well-penned glass area.

One can clearly see some hints, on proportion, from Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Suzuki Vitara et al, but overall, the XUV500 is distinctive on its own.

Another important observation is the clean and sanitised under-vehicle layout minus any plumbing or wires, ungainly accoutrements or the under-floor air flow. The tail-light cluster treatment is distinctive, yet simple, and pretty effective. Note the manner in which the leading edge of the reflector is also made into a style detail. The large tailgate flips upwards to reveal large load area with the rear row of seats folded flat. The spare tyre sits below the floor and is easily accessed from below in the same manner as in the Toyota Innova.

This new car breaks new ground also in the fact that it is the firm's first all-monocoque passenger vehicle, its first with a transverse-engine, front-wheel drive layout and also one which finally makes the break from its distinct Jeep lineage. And again, let us assert that its design was signed off before the SsangYong acquisition!

The sheer dynamism of the design is further heightened by the wedgy swoop of the belt line and the sharply raked windscreen. The subtle roof-rails play their own part in the look, and by and large, thanks to the smart surfacing of the external sheet metal, the overall sheen and finish of the XUV500 is magnificent. In fact, it puts many Indian-assembled and high-end luxury cars to shame.

The devil is in the details and these are finely carved, but what is of even greater import is the fact that the craftsmanship is of a high order. Panel gaps on the car are uniform yet close, and the metal-plastic-glass medley on the exterior make for pleasant aesthetics.

The interior treatment is bold, butch and beautiful! The central stack has a large touch-screen digital display for GPS, air-con controls, music system and other ancillaries. The steering wheel design is refreshingly modern and well-executed. The controls fall nicely to hand (and feet), a case in point being the parking brake lever angled towards the driver's left. Large air-vents on the dash direct cool air-flow to the front seat hotshots while the quality of interior trimming is good, it could have been better. Slight irritants abound, but by and large, the business end of the interior is a fine place to ply one's craft! While trim is of a high order, the colour choice is pretty subjective. The heart which pumps the thrust for the XUV500 is this freshly tweaked 2. 2-litre MHawk engine which is now in an eastwest layout as against a north-south placement in other Mahindra vehicles. This engine develops 140bhp but, more importantly, has 330Nm of torque for its driver. Mated to this engine is another first for an all Indian vehicle - a six-speed manual gearbox, developed in-house by Mahindra itself as is the front wheel drive transfer case. Base models will be front-wheel drive while another version will have an all-wheel drive layout with a torque-on-demand mechanism also delivering drive to the rear wheels. More on this later but while we are at it, the under-bonnet aesthetics too deserve a mention.

Well-planted stance, decent manners and a good balance between ride and handling should really pull in the troops to cheer for the XUV500. The meaty 5-spoke alloys are shod with 235 x 65-R 17 Bridgestones and with the underpinnings they do make for the vehicle's dynamics to bear positively for the occupants - be it the driver or passengers.

Instrumentation Americana seems to be the theme for the XUV500's tell-all cluster. Styled like one of the mean muscular Pontiac Firebirds of the 1970s, the twin, round instruments pack in the speedo (calibrated to 220 kmph) and the fuel gauge on the left, while the one on the right has the rev counter lined all the way to 7, 000 rpm with the smaller central dial having tell-tales for temperature and oil.
The central console is business-like, yet has a good feel to it. The large-size switches plus the rotary control knobs make access and useage simple. The digital touch screen is also user-friendly. The chromed strips, the large-chromed rotary knob for the audio system, and the polished top cover of the dashboard make for an irritating reflection in the windshield which can get a bit disconcerting for the driver. Headliner incorporates many welcome features including interior lighting which is by LEDs, a goggle holder in one flap while another one incorporates a fish-eye mirror giving the driver unimpeded rear vision from pillar to pillar!
The seats are large, well-cushioned and profiled, and could qualify to be one of the best in any of the Indianbuilt vehicles in the UV space. What also adds is the well-defined floor height, besides the large, expansive door openings. All put together, these make for very ergonomic ingress and egress, something which should delight the family no end.

The third row of seats is good, and overall, the designers and engineers have studied and learnt as to what not to do and also, how to get everything spot-on the first time itself. Both front seats have built-in lumbar support and the seat backs have netted sections for magazines and maps. Nice touch this, but the arm-rests, specially for the driver, do come in the way of gear shifting. Maybe a repositioning in height could solve this glitch.

A large double-decker glove box on the dashboard is just one among a myriad of cubby holes and bottle holders which abound in the cabin. The manner in which the door pads meld with the dashboard provides a fine continuous sweep of line to the interior which is pleasing to the eye. The steering wheel is nice and sporty. A large central pad dominates the senses and the two tiny side stalks also provide the base for the multi-function switches for phone and audio volume on the left along with cruise control settings on the right.

Handsome and wholesome, the XUV500 shows up in the way it carries itself on its large 17-inch alloys shod with 235-65-R 17 rubber. The alloys are striking in their turnout. For a vehicle with a strong forward thrust, it doesn't skimp on the retardation at its disposal. Disc brakes abound on all four wheels, and in addition, there is ABS, EBD plus ESP to ensure safety and peace of mind. What's more, there are driver and front passenger air bags, start/stop is standard equipment and there is also hill descent control for the top-line offering.

The final blow for the competition comes in terms of its pricing, but this is also indicative of what can be achieved with a product that is developed completely in-house. Rivalling most sedans in India, the XUV500 has been pegged at an invitation price that lies between Rs 10. 85 lakh for the base variant and Rs 12. 88 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the fully-loaded version. What is critical though is the amount of features it offers across variants. The SUV space in India was restricted for choice between the price band of Rs 10-20 lakh, and this hot new number from Mahindra comes not just as a smart, but also an immensely well put-together and sensible choice to woo buyers across segments.

Reader's opinion (1)

Prasenjeet TewariOct 14th, 2011 at 17:29 PM

THIS IS indian suv to the world fully indian!

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